Sunday, January 15, 2006

Richter Report – January 15, 2006

How important is a new Municipal Museum?

In the not so distant Langley past, there was a municipal political group that questioned the role of the “malcontent elitists” in this community. This political group went on to form a local government despite howls of protest. While in power (also despite howls of protest), they built an overpass, an award-winning pool, and ‘revitalized’ downtown Aldergrove. They got many things done in a short 3 year term but were severely criticized for the processes they used. Perhaps rightly so, but then again, they did build fundamental infrastructure for this community without having to increase taxes. Furthermore, the infrastructure they built is now used on a daily basis by most of Langley’s population.

Now, flash forward 10 years. Property taxes have increased substantially and are projected to increase another 14% over the next 2 years. (5.6% in 2006 and 8.95% in 2007 have been proposed).

Walnut Grove (population 23,000) is almost at build-out. Many of its young families are enrolled in soccer and have to practice 3 teams to one field. Willoughby is growing at a phenomenal rate (estimated future population 50,000) and there are virtually no recreation facilities for them (although there is lots of shopping if they want their kids to hang out at malls). Aldergrove is also expanding. It needs a new pool, especially with programs for seniors who can’t get to Blair or Walnut Grove because of a poor bus system. In addition, Aldergrove has sewer and water systems that are overcapacity and desperately in need of expansion (to the tune of $30+ million). Many roads through Langley, particularly in Willoughby, are in gridlock. Brookswood exists with a water supply that comes from an unconfined aquifer susceptible to leachate from outdated septic systems and industrial development next door in Surrey.

So, given all of these pressing issues, what do you think would be the priority issues for the new Council to deal with at its first Council Priorities Committee (CPC) meeting?

If you guessed any of the above, you’d be wrong.

The new Council had its first CPC meeting on Wednesday (January 11, 2006). There were 2 topics on the agenda. The topics were: 1. Heritage Center (in Fort Langley); and 2. Communities in Bloom.

Council was asked to give staff direction on whether to plan for replacing the existing municipal museum ($5 Million) or to build a “Bigger, Bolder, More Obvious” museum ($5 ++ million) in Fort Langley (home of the Mayor and one other Councillor). Council was told that they have to make this decision soon because of site, scope, timing and cost considerations. So the question I ask you is “How important is a new Municipal Museum?” Is this something that all residents of Langley want and need? Or, is this something that a small group is pushing the Council towards adopting? Also, how important is the Communities in Bloom project? (Have you even heard of it?)

Your property tax dollars will pay for these projects and your property tax dollars are increasing. Please make your thoughts known and your preferences clear about where (and on what) you think your money should be spent. Do you want a new municipal museum in Fort Langley? Or, do you want more soccer fields in Willoughby? What will you use more? What do you think is most important for Langley and its future?

Kim Richter

Kim Richter is in her 3rd term as Langley Township Councillor and also is a Professor of Business at Kwantlen University College. She holds a masters degree in health administration and was a health care management consultant.

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